The Honor 8 Pro has got it all and the only thing distinguishing it from rival flagships is its smaller price tag. If you’re looking to spend a little under £500 on a new smartphone, this is our wholehearted recommendation.

Honor 8 Pro Review

Spending around £500 on a phone is a risky business these days, on one hand it’s more than enough to get yourself a decent phone, but there’s also a fair share of duds at this price point too. Thankfully, the Honor 8 Pro is one of the gems at this level, offering the performance of a much more expensive handset with a finish to match.

Honor 8 Pro

If you don’t know Honor, it is Huawei’s budget phone brand, offering for the most part cheaper smartphones. The Pro 8 is at the very top of it’s range and is an update to the Honor 8 which only launched itself in the last 6 months or so.

Adding a new processor and a larger screen, it is a marked improvement on the Honor 8, but it also costs £100 more than its older brother.

Build quality

One of the first things you will notice is how well made this phone is, if you didn’t know the make (and it wasn’t written on the front and back) it would be very easy to mistake it for a premium brand. The metal case and chamfered edges feel great in the hand and are definitely a step up on the glass back of the Honor 8.

The body of the phone is slim and measures (just) less than 7mm making it thinner than the iPhone 7 Plus – and this without the protruding camera of the Apple phone. It’s clear that a lot of care and attention has been put into this phone and it is as well finished as flagship devices that cost upwards of £700.

Like other Honor devices the fingerprint scanner is located in the middle of back of the phone and is well situated for easily unlocking it one handed without risking your grip. It is also far enough away from the camera lens so you won’t have to worry about smudging fingerprints over the camera each time you grope for the button.

Honor 8 Pro backThe front of the phone is one piece of glass further reinforcing the quality of the phone, with very little bezel to speak of down the sides of the screen itself. It is available in three colours, navy blue, midnight black and platinum gold.

Screen

The screen is fantastic and as good as you can find at this level. Measuring 5.7-inches, the Quad HD panel has a resolution of 2560×1440 and is capable of reproducing 16m colours. It is bright, vivid and worthy of a much more expensive device.

The screen is so good in fact, Honor is confident it is good enough to be used for virtual reality and so actually include a Google cardboard setup in the phone’s box. This is an inspired idea and it means to try out VR all you need to do is pull out the section of the box, pop in the supplied lenses and launch the supplied app. Ultimately it is a bit of gimmick, but it goes to show the quality of the display which is something you will appreciate in day to day use.

Google Cardboard in the box

Camera

One thing that is unchanged from the Honor 8 is the camera, but that’s not a bad thing as it was already arguably the best camera available on a phone costing less than £500. The dual lenses work together to create a 12MP camera and the results are excellent.

By having both monochrome and RGB lenses the camera can take striking black and white photos that aren’t just normal photos run through a filter. One of the best examples we found of this was taking black and white photos with the flash turned on – instead of washing out the image it resulted in fantastic levels of detail.

The other benefit to having two lenses is the ability to simulate a camera with a wider aperture. This means you can artfully blur the background of a photo, leaving just the subject in sharp focus, producing the kind of photos you would expect from a “real” camera. While I wouldn’t quite say the photos are good enough for you to throw away your DSLR just yet, for a smartphone they are excellent and a great way of being able to take photos worthy of keeping when you only have your phone on you.

Test shots

Performance

The Pro features Huawei’s latest Kirin 960 chipset, 6GB of RAM and 64GB of ROM. If you’re not into your specs and your eyes are already starting to glaze over we can assure you that it runs particularly snappy and we found no performance issues.

We put it through our benchmarks and while it didn’t set any records, it was akin to a flagship device on every element of the test and was a comfortable improvement on the Honor 8.

Battery life

Thanks to a large 4000mAh battery the Honor 8 Pro has a lot of charge to get through the day and it does stand up to use well. If you’re a heavy user you’re still going to need to charge it daily, but it should at least stand up to a full day’s use without needing a top up. Charged with a USB Type-C cable it is fast charging so you won’t have to wait around for long for it’s battery to recharge.

Operating system and other features

Running on Huawei’s EMUI 5.1, which is based on Android 7.0 (or Nougat), it is the latest version of Android available. While in principle we’re not huge fans of custom versions of Android – as often a manufacturer will just use it as an excuse for stocking the device with a load of branded apps – there is an interesting feature included (alongside a load of branded apps).

According to Honor, EMUI 5.1 aims to optimise Android performance by running a series of processes in the background to clean up RAM usage and prevent the memory becoming fragmented and ruining performance in the long run. Without testing the phone long term we can’t say with any certainty how much difference this will make, but performance issues are common with many Android devices after extended use so if it does work it will be a great feature to have.

Another nice addition is the inclusion of an infrared “blaster” and Smart Remote app. This allows you to use your phone as a remote control for a wide range of devices and we found it actually performs surprisingly well. It’s not the kind of feature that will swing your decision when buying a phone, but if you have a living room with about 4 different remote controls it is nice to have the ability to do most things from one device.

Price

One of the best things about the Honor 8 Pro is the price, costing £475 it isn’t by any means a budget handset, but as a phone it is comparable with options that cost upwards of £700. If it’s just a bit too expensive for you the Honor 8 is worth a look – as for £100 less you can still get a decent phone with the same quality camera – as is the OnePlus 3T.

Verdict

The Honor 8 Pro is a fantastic flagship phone and the equal of some much more expensive devices. Unusually for a phone of this price there is nothing to compromise on, with an outstanding camera, sharp screen and premium build quality. Honor may not be a brand with a huge amount of street cred like Apple or Samsung, but if it keeps making phones like this that could soon change.

A superb smartphone for almost half the price of other flagships
Pros
Superb screen
Brilliant camera
Fantastic all around performance
Great build quality
Cons
Not the most fashionable of brands
5